/ 3 June 2024

Korner Talk | Fikile Mbalula ‘is a certified clown’

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ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
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‘Ugcwele iTakalani.” That is; your existence is filled with Takalani, loosely translated. 

Growing up in the Gauteng township of Katlehong, we used the saying “ugcwele iTakalani” in reference to a bumbling blockhead of a buffoon with the misfortune of a bird’s brain. 

The word Takalani is taken from the long-running and renowned SABC children’s educational programme, Takalani Sesame, which first aired in 2000 and is the South African co-production of the 53-year-old United States offering, Sesame Street.

In both children’s programmes, there is a tall, bright yellow and fluffy bird character known as Big Bird in the US version, and Moshe in the South African production. 

This was the image I had when ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula posted pictures of himself in a bright yellow and fluffy Dolce & Gabbana two-piece sweatsuit, during his October 2023 trip to the Rugby World Cup final match in Paris, France. 

It was the bespoke embodiment of the birdbrain political persona Mbalula has portrayed while occupying senior government positions since 2009, as well as the secretary general seat — often referred to as the ANC’s engine room — where he has overseen the lowest point of the 112-year-old organisation’s democratic history following the hammering it took during these national elections. 

For example, who can forget how Mbalula, during his seven-year sports ministerial tenure, twerked like an impoverished Instagram influencer in front of scores of Springboks supporters ahead of the national team’s departure to Britain for the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

“Moer hulle; slaan hulle. Haak Vrystaat, Transvaal is ver [beat them, hit them. Go to the Free State because Transvaal is far],” he would shout, making as much sense as a Swiss-cheese condom 

With no noticeable government achievements in the sports fraternity, Mbalula — typical of a broke Instagram bonehead — needed a blesser to sponsor his R680 000 family trip to Dubai, with the assistance of a company that was doing business with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. 

The ANC’s secretary general has not faced the consequences for the corruption and conflicts of interest claims in a 2018 public protector report.

It was unsurprising, then, that he rocked up in his clown car — a Mercedes Benz G63 luxury vehicle worth more than R3  million — to campaign for the ANC ahead of the 2024 polls in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal.

This is in an area that is a sea of poverty and has the indignity of recording the country’s highest murder rates for at least three years running. Mbalula behaved like a man who would throw Cyril Ramaphosa-branded cupcakes to people longing for a loaf of bread. 

It is that level of arrogance that saw his party in Kwazulu-Natal — where it achieved 54.22% at the 2019 national polls — slumping to 17.22% this year as the province’s voters moved to uMkhonto weSizwe (MK)party, Jacob Zuma’s nascent stokvel that has seen the former ANC and state president making a bigger political comeback than a Beijing boy growing up to avenge the death of his father. And if you think I’m being unfair in my criticism of Mbalula, remember that he confirmed his clownish characteristics less than a month ago. 

“We paid for the circus to end on 29  May, but I see the clowns are already bringing down the tent and leaving town before then,” wrote Mbalula on 7 May, before deleting his post on X, formerly Twitter. 

Many speculated what he meant, but I saw it as his honest appraisal of the ANC’s ballot box chances — that the clowns will finally attain their electoral comeuppance. 

Whereafter Mbalula will dust off his Dolce & Gabba getup to play the Takalani Sesame role he has long auditioned for.